Scripture Memory and Bible Copying – Part 1

This morning I was alone driving about thirty minutes to pick up Steve, who was returning a truck we had rented. I was reciting out loud to myself several large sections of Scripture that I have memorized. When I came to Colossians 3:16—”Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom . . .”—I was reminded of two e-mails we had recently received asking us about Scripture memory and Bible copying in our family. Here is what they asked:

“I have noticed a trend your family has that involves Scripture memorization. Do you have any information regarding how one would go about memorizing Scripture? I have always had difficulty in this area and would like to know if there is any specific methodology or steps that you use to accomplish this.” Mom 1

“I was wondering what your Bible copying involves? We were involved with Awanas for about four to five years, but the older my son gets the more he fights with learning the verses in the sections. He does have a lot of trouble keeping things memorized, so I think he gets frustrated with himself and gives up. So I’m looking for some way he can learn to memorize without the pressure, and get him back to being eager to learn more about God.” Mom 2

How can the Word of Christ dwell in me richly if I haven’t memorized it? I read my Bible personally every morning. We are also in the Word daily as a family in the evenings, and Steve reads a chapter of Scripture to me at night. I can think about the Word and meditate on it from those interactions with it, but what is dwelling in me richly is what I have memorized.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalms 119:11). Once again, to have the Word hidden in my heart is going to mean that I have it memorized. It is accurate, and it is true, and it is continually available in my heart to direct me. This is important not only in my life but also in my children’s lives. We want them to have the Word hidden in their hearts, dwelling there richly.

The simplest way our family memorizes Scripture is what I might term the whiteboard-mealtime-grace method. After we say grace before lunch and dinner, we recite a portion of Scripture together before we begin to eat. We have a whiteboard hanging in the dining room where the current Scripture is written down for us to read until it is memorized. The verses on our board now are Matthew 5:3-12. A couple of the previous passages were 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and Galatians 5:22-24.

Just by reading the verses two times a day as our family sits down to meals, we memorize them usually in a few days to weeks. The children learn them before Steve and I do. There is no pressure on anyone, and everyone—even the youngest—will eventually know all the verses on the whiteboard. We leave the set of verses up even after everyone knows them well so they become very ingrained. At that point, the Lord will put a new section of Scripture on Steve’s heart to put on the whiteboard on which we will begin to work.

I believe the key to Scripture memory is having it scheduled every day. That is one reason why our whiteboard-mealtime-grace Scripture method is effective. We work on it twice a day, day after day, and in this case it doesn’t even feel like we are memorizing. For other memorizing, if we will work on it for a set amount of time and do it consistently, we make good memorizing progress.

When our children were younger, I helped them memorize during one-on-one time we would have together. Once at a homeschool convention, we had purchased some books from Scripture Memory Fellowship to help guide me with our preschoolers’ memorizing. Each book had illustrations and a verse in large print. Since the children couldn’t read, I could hold the book open so that they could see the illustration and teach them the verse. Eventually they could say all the verses from the book by me simply flipping the pages so they could see the illustration. When we had completed memorizing all the verses in a particular book, it was with great joy that the child would recite his verses for the family at our family Bible time. We kept our preschoolers memorizing individual verses rather than larger portions of Scripture.

In teaching the preschoolers the verse, I would repeat the whole verse five times through. Then I would take the first phrase and say it five times. I would ask the child to try saying it on his own. If he couldn’t get started, I would say the verse again five times and ask him again. Sometimes I would say the phrase with him or start him off with the first couple of words. We would keep at it through the five to ten minutes that we had set aside for doing memory work.

The next day, I would start by asking the child if he could remember what he had learned the day before. If he remembered it, I would have him repeat it five times for me. If he couldn’t remember it, I would help him get started and see if he could go on by himself. We would work toward the child saying the phrase five times alone. If he couldn’t say any of the verse from the previous day, we would begin again where we had begun the day before.

Once the child had the first phrase down, I would move to the next phrase, saying it five times and seeing if he could say it. If he could, he would repeat it five times. If he couldn’t, I would say it for him again. When he could say the new phrase by himself, I would have him go back to the beginning of the verse, say his first phrase and add the new one on. This would again take practice. We always worked in groupings of five—five times with no mistakes before we moved on to the next step. Once the child has a verse memorized, in addition to learning new verses, we will review the previously-learned verses.

For our children who are older than preschool age, Steve talks with the child, and together they pick out a section of Scripture to memorize. Often it is a whole chapter once they are older. Because I had done Scripture memory with the children before they could read on their own, they learned my method of memorizing that they could utilize, or they could experiment with other ways themselves. When the children were younger, I would be the one to put time into the schedule for them to do Scripture memory. As they have gotten older, Steve has wanted them to choose Scripture memory on their own so they are to work it into their personal time.

Memorizing Scripture is often viewed as a difficult discipline by Christians–one that they would like to do but find themselves avoiding. Our family has discovered that it can be done quite simply by repeating verses when we gather at the table to eat our meals. We also help our pre-readers with their memorizing. If we set aside time to memorize, we will have memorizing success and find that it isn’t as hard as we think. It is difficult only if we haven’t invested the necessary time into it. May we be like the Psalmist and help our children to do this as well: “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalms 119:16). Next month we will look a little more into Scripture memory.

“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction” (Proverbs 16:21). This is one of my favorite verses in regards to home schooling and to raising children. It is a verse I need to remind myself of daily. I also have to ask the Lord to help me see the value of pleasant words and to let me be aware of when they can be used. It is easy for me to spot a child’s infraction; that comes naturally. It takes the Lord’s help to be as conscious of when to use those pleasant words.

Pleasant words are appropriate in discipline situations. Sometimes I wonder what our children must think of us when we have our stern face and stern words on. Have you ever watched and listened to another mother in this mode and thought to yourself, “Look how hard and harsh she is!” Would our children have an easier time responding to our discipline if we had the same discipline but a sweet disposition while doing it? This is not the purpose of this Mom’s Corner, though. Rather I want us to consider the value of practicing pleasant words to praise and encourage our children.

Sometimes I am absolutely amazed, at what sounds very “syrupy” sweet to me when I say it, but will bring the biggest, brightest smile to my child. Right now Anna, age six, is diligently working on learning to read and write. When she makes a particular letter well, perhaps a ‘p,’ I will say, “What a great ‘p’ that was, Anna!” Her face immediately lights up with pleasure! I can assure you that there are many, many letters on her page that are not made nicely and even this one I am praising is probably not perfect. I feel certain, though, that she is much more motivated to continue working to make her letters nicely by my “pleasant words” than she would be by my criticism of her poorly formed ones.

When we brought our oldest son, now 22, home to school fifteen years ago, he was struggling with his newly acquired reading skills. I had no experience teaching reading and few resources to draw upon for the remedial help he needed. I decided that I would have him read out loud to me for ten minutes a day. I also purposed to praise him highly for the words he read correctly and to patiently help him sound out the words he struggled with, not allowing any criticism or irritation on my lips as I did so.

Unbelievably to me, within just a few short weeks, his reading skills had improved to where he could read almost anything put in front of him. He no longer dreaded reading time as he had before, but he was actually enjoying the stories he could now read for himself.

Pleasant words promote instruction. Isn’t instruction our goal in home schooling? We want our children to learn to be Christ-like; we want them to develop godly character, and we desire that they excel educationally as much as possible. Scripture says that pleasant words will help us to these goals because they promote instruction. We can say the exact same words with a sweet voice or with a hard voice, pleasant words or harsh words. What will be the outcome of each? We can also use pleasant words or critical words in most situations. Which will promote the instruction that is the prayer of our hearts for our children?

Gratitude comes under the heading of “pleasant words” in my mind. How I delight in expressions of gratefulness to me and how difficult it can be for me to receive criticism. I am finding this is just as true for my children. My seventeen-year-old daughter thrives on praise and gratitude, being highly motivated by it. Our children need to learn to receive criticism with a proper spirit, and I expect they will have plenty of opportunities for just that. I want to push that unnatural tendency in myself, learning to major on gratitude and praise while “minoring” on the reprimands that do come naturally.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3-4). I wonder how much of this meek and quiet spirit is evidenced by our pleasant words. No matter how hard I try for pleasant words, it is a matter of the Lord changing my heart. “. . . for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34).” I must make this heart change issue an area that I am constantly bringing before my Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and petition. Also, I want to not be satisfied with having a spirit that easily criticizes my children but has difficulty praising them. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).” I desire to see these negative heart attitudes as sin, confessing them to my children and to my Lord. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Yes, I have a responsibility to teach and train my children which will involve plenty of opportunities to correct them, but may the joy of my heart be to praise, encourage, and express gratitude to them. May I see the value in these “pleasant words.” I challenge you to evaluate your day-to-day interactions with your children. Are they lop-sided on the critical, hard side or do you find frequent occasions to verbally express your pleasure with those precious children? Pleasant words promote instruction!